On Monday, August 15th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. It’s not a holy day of obligation this year (more on why below) but we will have Mass at OLQH at 8:00AM nonetheless. What exactly are we celebrating in Mary’s life with this feast? The dogma of the Assumption of Mary is rather simple, in fact. It states that that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. In other words, when Mary came to the end of her life, she was taken body and soul into Heaven.
Why was Mary taken up into Heaven body and soul? Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin (that’s the Immaculate Conception) so there was no need for her to have the separation of her body and soul and wait until the Last Day to have them reunited. For those of us who were born into original sin—and that’s all of us—when we die our bodies will remain here on Earth until we are reunited with them when Jesus comes again in glory. Mary, having no original sin and no actual sin, was not subject to this separation and is able to exist wholly in Heaven.
Mary sits now in Heaven and is exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. Mary is our example: we hope to one day be like her, seeing God face-to-face in Heaven with both our body and soul. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. What has already happened to Mary—that is, her existence in Heaven body and soul—is the anticipation of all of us: that one day we too might live with God forever in Heaven, body and soul.
Now, the question from above: why is the Assumption not a holy day of obligation this year? There is always confusion about when certain feasts are or are not holy days. In the United States, the bishops have determined that the following days are holy days of obligation: January 1, Mary, Mother of God; Ascension Thursday; August 15, the Assumption; November 1, All Saints; December 8, Immaculate Conception; and December 25, Christmas. However, most dioceses in the United States, including our own, transfer the Ascension to Sunday, so there are really only 5 holy days of obligation in the United States (along with all Sundays).
However, whenever January 1, August 15, or November 1 falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass (the “obligation” part) is removed since it is so close to Sunday. This removal does not happen with December 8, the Immaculate Conception, since this is our country’s patronal feast day. In the end, the whole purpose of these days is to render worship to God, to celebrate the joy proper to the Lord’s day, and the suitable relaxation of mind and body.